Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | January 4, 2018

“O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings”

“O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings”

 Just shy of 2 months ago we observed the 500th anniversary of the opening salvo of what has become known as the Reformation.  Begun by an obscure monk who, at the outset, was pointing out certain irregularities he noted as they related to his own church denomination.  That set off about 150 years of rolling reform throughout the center of the western world.  The church was shaken to its core as a millennium of theological formation and political connectiveness began to unwind.  And at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century a movement began of such consequence that historians have named it.  They call it the Enlightenment—so called because its patriarchs and matriarchs believed that it was on age of setting aside the darkness of God and religion and the dawning of science and Reason.  You can’t see it, but in my notes Reason is spelled with a capital “R.”  That is because for most of the drivers of the Enlightenment, “Reason was their god, and man was the measure of all things.”  That quote was first attributed to a Greek philosopher named Protagoras and it means that the individual human being rather than a god or an unchanging moral law, is the ultimate source of VALUE!

I think “man is the measure…” is a pretty good descriptive phrase for the Enlightenment. 

Why is this important?  Well—if you have been thinking about the dates, you will realize that there were other things going on in the western world while the Enlightenment was spreading.  Over in England John Mason Neale, Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts were breaking out of Cromwellian narrowness as it relates to the worship of the church.  Isaac Watts was publishing his breakout hymnal featuring interpretive lyrics related to Scripture.  At the same time—a composer in England was writing keyboard suites, cantatas and operas.  His name was George Handel and of him Ludwig von Beethoven said he was “the greatest composer that ever lived.”

Handel’s life raged while his continent was aflame with the debate of the ages:  Christian theism or humanistic atheism—that was the great debate of Handel’s age—sound familiar?  Many Enlightenment thinkers—contemporaries of Handel—had backgrounds in the sciences and associated scientific advancement with the overthrow of Christianity and traditional authority in favor of the development of free speech and thought.  This could be our times—but it was the time of George Frederic Handel.

Born in Germany into a Christian home, Handel’s early works were largely operas, but rising costs of operatic talent drove Handel to other areas of endeavor.  He began composing oratorios for the church which enabled volunteers to do the work of the expensive operatic players.

Handel could be—well let’s say—passionate.  He once fought a duel with swords over seating in the orchestra pit.  His opponent thrust what would have been a fatal blow, but his sword was blunted by a metal button on Handel’s coat.

That passion flowed to many areas of his life—he was benevolent to a fault—a portion of his Messiah proceeds went to a debtor’s prison and hospital.  But the passion also served him well in his creative work.  A lyricist, Charles Jennens, who sought to push back against the increasingly hostile secular culture compiled scripture after scripture in the hopes that Handel would like it and arrange music and words in such a fashion to glorify the Genius and Skill of the One who fashioned the heavens and the earth and who shall reign forever and ever.  He scored…big time.  Handel read those scriptures and God inspired him—His passionate response was to write from—literally morning until evening and the Messiah, in its entirety, was completed in only 23 days.

Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | December 22, 2017

“Joy to the World”

Joy to the World

December 17, 2017

A couple of weeks ago we began talking about a struggle in the church; the two opponents being—on the one hand traditional; and on the other hand, contemporary.  It certainly is a struggle today, though, in my opinion the hard edge of the battle has softened somewhat.  Many, if not most churches have arrived at a more “middlin” ground.  Hard core, contemporary churches are singing songs like:

“Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”               1870

“Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine”           1873

“Be Thou My Vision”                                    6th Century

Of course, the instrumentation is different—maybe the pace and arrangement, but the sentiment is there—some going back to the 6th century.  I would call our service a “blended” service which is to say we are substantively both traditional and contemporary.  I like to think we take the best of both.

But when we raised the issue two weeks ago we spoke more of the traditional side.  John Mason Neale took the 8th century chant and made it into a hymn—a seven stanza hymn, as there had been seven distinct one line chants (one for each day of the week) he combined into “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Today, I want to go the other way.  We had mentioned Isaac Watts in passing as representative of the contemporary side of things.

Isaac Watts came on the scene in England in the last part of the 17th century and 1st part of 18th century.  He was a contemporary of Charles Wesley and every bit his equal in hymnody.  Watts’ father was a separatist—a non-conformist, which was a particular…we will call it denomination…but it was a grouping of people who refused to acknowledge the king as the head of the church and rejected the church of England, also known as the Anglican church.  John Watts, Isaacs’ father, had been incarcerated twice for his non-conformist ways.  Consequently, Isaac could not attend either Oxford or Cambridge, which required Anglican heritage, even though he had early distinguished himself as a theologian and logician and quite a defender of the faith.  He did attend a university and eventually was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree.

You will recall that, according to Oliver Cromwell, the non-conformist church in Watt’s and Wesley’s day, had been compelled by strict civil laws, to sing only psalms in the church.  Bring Psalter.  The Scottish church had created what is still called the metric psalter, that is hymnology in metrical verse.  Here is an example: “All Creatures That on Earth do Dwell.”  You have sung metric psalms before.

In 1719, Watts began scandalizing the church by publishing what he titled: “The Psalms of David Initiated in the Language of the New Testament.”  In this hymnal, he “interpreted” the Psalms through the eyes of the New Testament and in so doing he invented the English modern hymn and the contemporary vs traditional debate began.

One of Watts critics was a fellow non-conformist, Thomas Bradbury, who called Watts work product “Whims” instead of “hymns.”  Bradbury accused Watts of imagining he was King David, to which Watts replied:

“You tell me that I rival it with David, whether he or I be the sweet Psalmist of Israel.  I abhor the thought; while yet at the same time, I am fully persuaded that the Jewish Psalm book (Psalms) was never designed to be the only Psalter of the Christian Church.”

In 1719, in his scandalous hymnal, Watts included a piece entitled “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.”  However, it didn’t really catch on until perhaps 75 years later when an American Church musician named Lowell Mason applied Watt’s lyrics to some adapted musical phrases from Handel’s Messiah.  It was retitled “Joy to the World” and Watts lyrical adaptation of Psalm 98 with Handel’s musical mastery was an effective combination and “Joy to the Word” has become internationally famous.


Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | December 14, 2017

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

December 3, 2017

You have, no doubt, been splashed by what is, tongue in cheek, referred to as “Worship Wars.”  You know…Traditional or Contemporary.  We have been effected by it.  Very early in our existence, a young adult—perhaps 22 years old, approached me and said she would no longer attend our church—unless we began introducing guitars and a drum into our musical repertoire.  I thanked her for her input.  Of course, she only came a half dozen times a year, so I didn’t pay much attention to her.  That isn’t who I am and that is not who we are as a church.  We are not belligerent…I just prefer a more classical tone.

What you should know is that “Worship Wars” over music in the church is NOT new.  When the pipe organ was introduced into the church–in some quarters it was considered scandalous.  And in the early 18th century a composer and lyricist came along who also scandalized the church with his lyrical prosaic verse and assigned to swinging melodies: “O God Our Help in Ages Past”…”When I Survey”…”Joy to the World.”

His name was Isaac Watts.  And he was a purveyor of contemporary music.  There were some who preferred more traditional, liturgical music.  Of course, retrospectively, we don’t distinguish between Isaac Watts, the contemporary artist, and the more traditional artists.  I suppose 200 years from now, people will laugh at us and wonder what the big stink was between Keith Getty, Chris Tomlin—William Cooper, John Newton and Isaac Watts.

Among those holding up the traditional side was an Anglican Cleric by the name of John Mason Neale.  He was English, born in London in 1818.  Anglican is the name of the Church of England that Henry VIII started when Pope Clement refused to grant him an annulment from Catherine of Aragon.  Now 300 years down the line, John Neale comes on the scene as a rising light.  He was a brilliant student at Cambridge and a prize-winning poet.  In search of a more traditional and liturgical mood—different than some of the music of his day—Neale went back in time.  In the 800’s – 1,000 years previous—Latin hymns were sung each day during Christmas vespers.  Vesper is from the Greek—meaning “evening”—and the church would gather folks from December 17-23 in the evenings for evening prayers.  The Latin hymns were called the great anthems or the “O” anthems because each of them began with “O.”

In the 13th century the hymns were collected and put into its present form.  Neale—who like to put ancient Latin and Greek hymns into English—found this collection of “O” hymns and translated them into English– His original version—has seven verses (one for each day 12/17-12/23).

Today I want to take a peek at this “O” hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and see from where the ancients drew their inspiration.  By the way, we remember John Mason Neale’s work whenever we sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Good Christian Men Rejoice” and “All Glory Laud and Honor” on Palm Sunday—all, in classic Neale style, traditional hymns.

Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | December 13, 2017

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

December 10, 2017

Today, as we think about some of the Christmas Carols we sing, we are going to take apart one of my favorites:  Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

1.  The Author

I think the real master of this masterpiece is not the author of this carol, but the author’s mother.  You know, no doubt, of the saying, “The hand that rock the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”  Well, this story is not exactly that dramatic…but pretty doggone close.

Susanna Wesley was the baby in her family—the 25th of 25 children.  She understood what a large family meant so she and her husband, Samuel, opted for a small family…she only bore 19 children—sadly, 9 of those children died in infancy, and only 8 were present to bury their mother.

Two of those were John and Charles.  John was a fine preacher and Charles was a prolific hymn writer, (6,500 hymns) and he burst on the scene when there was a dearth of Christians songs.

King Charles I, like many with unchecked authority, was an arrogant cuss.  Most kings rule best when they rule least, but Charles thought he had a duty and a right to intrude on the lives of his subjects.  But as head of the Church of England he began to not only intrude, but to meddle.  Cromwell, the Prime Minister, and Parliament told him to knock it off.  He refused so Cromwell had the king arrested and later executed for treason.  This was good and bad.  Good in the sense that the murderous king was no longer available to torment and kill the religious separatists but it was bad in that now there was a NEW unchecked authority in the land to impose their own separatist idiosyncrasies.  One of those idiosyncrasies was the imposition of civil laws outlawing the celebration of religious holidays.  This came NOT from the irreligious, but from the overly religious.  [Incidentally, that danger still exists 400 years later]

The greatest danger “in” the church and “to” the church comes not from the irreligious—but from self-righteous overly religious people who create extra-biblical systems and cultures to impose on people and comes not from the knowledge of the holy, but comes from the raw exercise of power and authority.

You remember in Jesus day the Pharisees were often in league with the Herodians.  The Herodians were irreligious—the Pharisees were overly religious.  In any case, Parliament forbade Christians holiday festivities and imposed civil penalties on all who violated this law.  As a result, Christmas Carols were loosely regulated out of the Christmas holiday

Eighty years later, Charles Wesley—1 of 19 was born to Susanna and Samuel Wesley.  Charles was a preemie and neither cried, or opened his eyes until his actual due date…and on that day opened his eyes and cried.

He went to five schools and after an exceptional high school performance, went on to college at Oxford.  At Oxford, he found a good many more “diversions” he called them.  So much so that he says, “My first year at college I lost in diversions.”  As he entered his second year, he and his brother, John, while not yet having a legitimate experience with God, became wrapped up in religious disciplines.  I suspect God had begun to work in their hearts and life to awaken, or better, enliven their souls and this was the path God took them.  In any case, John and Charles were responsible for starting “Holy Clubs” at Oxford.  Their religious disciplines were so rigorous and methodical, they became known as Methodists and thus the beginning of that church.  That is why Susanna Wesley was known as the mother of the Methodist church.

A friend, George Whitfield, encouraged them to come to the United States and both decided this mission field had great potential, and so they crossed the Atlantic to the mission field.  They both ended in the deep south, Charles as an assistant to Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia—a penal colony of sorts and John—first to Georgia and then to Alabama.  They were both disastrous experiences.  Keep in mind—at this point in their lives—neither were converted—but rather were trying to work their way to heaven.  They maintained strict and rigorous disciplines—unbending and brittle.  Charles was demanding and autocratic.  Not only did he insist on infant baptism by trimersion—three times in succession—always causing distress to the infant.  One angry woman fired a gun at him!  [That hasn’t happened to me, yet, but it is still early in the day].

Their friend, George Whitfield had given them a letter written almost 200 years before by one Henry Scougal that had become titled “The Life of God in the Soul of Man.”  After that he and his brother, John, began attending Bible studies and preaching meetings held by Moravians who they observed had something they did not—a vital and vibrant relationship and experience with God.  On Sunday, May 21, 1738, Charles—who was now 31—wrote in his journal, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ.  I saw it was by faith I stood.”

On the following Tuesday, May 23, Charles wrote in his journal; “I began a hymn upon my conversion.”  Most historians believe it was a hymn that went like this;

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—

I woke the dungeon flamed with light;


My chains fell of, my heart was free.

I rose, went fort and followed Thee:

Amazing love, how can it be, that Thou

My God shouldst die for me.


After that, Wesley became a most incredible hymn writer.  He wrote more than 6,500 hymns.  Often as he meditated while riding on horseback from one place to another, an idea would strike him and he would ride up to the next farm house he could find and borrow pen and paper to record the verse that had just entered his head.  An artist, he forbade others meddling with his work.  He did, however make a rare exception in one case…He wrote one song that went like this:

Hark, how all the welkin rings,

Glory to the King offerings

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled.


Joyful all with nations rise,

Join the triumph of the skies

Universal nature say

Christ the Lord is born today.

His good friend, George Whitfield, said—Chuck—I got an idea…I think we can improve that:

Hark! The herald angels sing

Glory to the newborn king

Peace on earth and mercy mild,

God and sinner reconciled.


Joyful all ye nations rise

Join the triumph of the skies

With angelic host proclaim

Christ is born in Bethlehem


In a rare move, Wesley accepted the new lyrics–but it was sung as a dirge.

* Cromwell was deposed along with Parliament for being too intrusive

* Charles II became the new king

* The restrictions were lifted on hymnology

But, even then, the hymn didn’t enjoy broad popularity—largely because of the metre.  A Jewish man who come to believe in Christ as his own savior had written a cantata that was done in commemoration to Johann Gutenberg.  In 1856 one Dr. William Cummings blended Wesley’s inspiration with Whitfield’s edit, and Felix Mendelssohn’s music to bring us Hark! The Herald Angels Sing—a song not only popular in churches at Christmas but also in Macy’s, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.”



Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | October 2, 2017

Sunday School – The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

Join us for Adult Sunday school in the Conference Room from 9:10 to 9:50.  You’ll hear the wonders of the Holy Spirit taught by Dan Nelson.  You won’t want to miss it.

Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | October 2, 2017

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

The shoeboxes are here and will be available Sunday, October 15th.  Please be sure to pick up one or two, fill it and return it to the church.  You will make a child very happy.  It may be the only gift they receive.

OCC pic

Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | October 2, 2017

Choir Practice

Choir Notes png

Choir practice will begin tomorrow evening at 6:00.  You’ll not want to miss this fun time with Gordon and Carol.  No auditions, just show up and sing to your hearts content.


Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | October 2, 2017

Pastor Appreciation Sunday

Join us this Sunday and show your appreciation for Pastor John.  Lunch will be provided around 11:15 (after the service).

Pastor Appreciation

Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | October 2, 2017

Ladies Bible Study on Ruth

Ladies Bible Study on Ruth

Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | March 15, 2017

In the quiet of the morning – Bay Presbyterian Church


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